UK Authorities to Research Link Between Problem Gambling and Crime

  • The UK government has set up a commission to research possible links between problem gambling and crime
  • The Commission on Crime and Problem Gambling has 16 members, including a co-founder of Betfair
  • The study will last for three years and will have significant public input
  • It comes at a time when problem gambling is an increasingly damaging issue in the UK
The 16 members of the Commission on Crime and Problem Gambling will conduct fact-finding research
The 16 members of the Commission on Crime and Problem Gambling will conduct fact-finding research before making recommendations

New research commissioned

Problem gambling is a serious issue in the UK and the authorities are focusing on understanding the problem as best as possible. The government is now trying to identify any potential links between crime and gambling.

The government has set up the Commission on Crime and Problem Gambling to undertake the research. The commission will aim to identify and understand any potential links between the two. The study will take place over a three-year period.

As well as identifying any potential links, the research will look at how such correlations can impact society and communities. This will then allow the commission to formulate a plan of action to reduce any correlation. It will also look at any factors that contribute to increasing levels of problem gambling and methods to curtail them, including in the media, politics and legislation.

The commission will draw upon significant input from the public via media coverage, seminars, consultations and written submissions. It will also work closely with leaders in both the political sphere and industry. After completing the fact-finding phase of the study, the commission will make its respective recommendations for the criminal justice department, the government and for the industry itself.

The commission chair is Lord Peter Goldsmith, a former Attorney General. Another 15 people will sit on the commission. One of the more notable additions to the team is the co-founder of the Betfair gambling exchange – Andrew Black.

Time for a change

Attitudes to gambling have begun to change in the UK. People are more negative now as they become more aware of problem gambling.

According to studies, more than 400,000 people in the UK have a serious gambling problem. A further 2 million people are at risk of developing such problems. There is a worrying increase in the level of underage people partaking in gambling.

According to GambleAware, the NHS spends as much as £1.2bn each year in treating gambling addiction. However, there is still only a single center in the country that dedicates itself to treating problem gambling, which is in London. There are plans to drastically increase the number of these centers, with one currently being built in Leeds.

GambleAware has not been receiving the funds it needs to provide adequate support for problem gamblers. According to the UK Gambling Commission, GambleAware needs funding of at least £21.5m and up to £67m.

Voluntary levy changes

At the moment, a voluntary levy is in place on the revenues of gambling operators. The levy obliges each operator to give 0.1% of their revenues to GambleAware each year. However, this has not been the case. In the most recent period, operators had revenues of about £14.4bn, so should be contributing £14.4m to the charity through the levy. However, in actuality they handed over less than £10m, with some operators giving as little as £1.

This led to calls for a mandatory levy. In reaction, a number of large bookmakers (William Hill, Coral Ladbrokes, Paddy Power Betfair, SkyBet and Bet365) have said they would be willing to contribute 1% of revenues for the next five years. This group represents about half of the sector in the UK and would generate upwards of £100m each year for problem gambling treatment.

Tackling the problem

There have been some positive regulatory moves in the UK to try and curtail problem gambling. Research showed that fixed odds betting terminals, found widely across the UK, are highly addictive. Consequentky, the government cut the maximum stake on these machines from £100 to £2, which has significantly affected the bottom line of many bookmakers.

There is also a ban in place on gambling companies advertising during televised sporting events. There are calls for an end to gambling companies being sports kit sponsors and being able to advertise on pitchside hoardings.

The 16 members of the Commission on Crime and Problem Gambling will conduct fact-finding research before making recommendations

(crime)(The United Kingdom government has commissioned a new study into potential links between problem gambling and crime. This will last for three years)